Virginia Tech’s football team may be preparing for its fourth game of the season, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the program.
Whether it has been injuries or surprise redshirts, this past week of practice has raised more questions than it’s answered about the future of the team.
The upcoming matchup with Marshall doesn’t exactly present a challenge, so the team has some time to resolve some of these issues; however the Hokies are still on slightly rocky footing moving forward.
Marshall to Redshirt
Corey Marshall’s future with the Hokies seemed in doubt as recently as a month ago.
Marshall, a junior, fought through a disappointing season last year while playing out of position at defensive tackle, and many assumed the leave marked the beginning of the end for him in Blacksburg.
In the middle of August, Marshall had a private meeting with Frank Beamer to discuss if he’d remain with the team, and ultimately took a three-week leave from the program.
But he rejoined the team on Sept. 11, and this week coaches announced he’d redshirt to preserve two more years of eligibility with the team.
“It was just a combination of things,” said defensive line coach Charley Wiles. “He was gone awhile and just reps and what was best for him, what was best for our football team, that was kind of what all went into it.”
Marshall played as a freshman, giving him the option to redshirt this year, and coaches hope he’ll be able to provide depth on the line after players like Derrick Hopkins, James Gayle, J.R. Collins and Tyrel Wilson graduate.
“He missed a lot of work, but if we can not get anybody hurt, we’ll see how it goes,” Wiles said. “We’re losing (Hopkins), four guys, three ends and a defensive tackle, so it’d be nice to have him for two more years.”
While preserving future depth is important, the team would’ve never held Marshall out had other backups like Nigel Williams and Woody Baron not performed well in limited action this season.
“(If Williams and Baron hadn’t played as well) we’d have played him,” Wiles said. “We’re in the business of trying to win games.”
The team will also move him back to his preferred position of defensive end in an effort to make him as comfortable and effective as possible.
“I think with Marshall, get him back out to defensive end, which is a position he likes to play,” Beamer said. “He’s a guy who’s got a lot of talent. I think he’s got a future after Virginia Tech myself. So get him two years there playing the defensive end position.”
Coleman Still Uncertain
Runningback J.C. Coleman’s ankles have been a frequent area of speculation so far this season.
Coleman expressed confidence that he’d play in the season opener after spraining both ankles in fall camp, but wasn’t even able to travel to Atlanta.
He made his first appearance against Western Carolina, but a player fell on one of his injured ankles, preventing him from travelling to Greenville to face ECU.
Now, though he feels ready to go, he’s still being very cautious to avoid another setback.
“It’ll probably be a game time type decision,” Coleman said. “I don’t want to have another thing like we had against Western Carolina, trying to get out there a little too early and be set back a couple more weeks or anything like that, so I’m definitely being smart about it this time.”
Despite his caution, the running back still feels optimistic that his return is imminent.
“Today’s probably the best I’ve felt since going into the Western Carolina game — the same way I felt going into that game,” Coleman said.
But the tough part about ankle injuries is that they’re easy to re-aggravate. Had a WCU player not fell on him in the home opener, he wouldn’t be in this situation now.
“If I had planted or something and it gave out, that’s too soon (to come back), but somebody fell on it, and that’s something you can’t help,” Coleman said.
With a short week of practice before the team’s conference opener against Georgia Tech next Thursday, Coleman will undoubtedly err on the side of cautionary when deciding whether or not he’ll play against the Thundering Herd.
“I’m still taking it day by day, just seeing how I feel,” Coleman said. “I know I’m not where I want to be yet.”
The Hokies got some more bad injury news this week, this time regarding redshirt freshman linebacker Devin Vandyke.
Vandyke saw time on the field for the first time in his career in the home opener against Western Carolina, but suffered a torn ACL that will put him out for the year in a bad stroke of luck.
“He is currently being evaluated, and when the swelling in his knee goes down and he regains range of motion, he will have surgery locally,” said head athletic trainer Mike Goforth in a statement. “The timetable on a return is 6-8 months so he will be out for the spring, but should be fuller for the first summer session.”
Devin’s brother, Ronny, also suffered a season-ending injury in August, so it’s been a rough offseason for the Vandyke brothers.
Overall, it was a tough week of practice for Tech, but a big win against Marshall this weekend should help these injuries and redshirts sting a little less.